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Volume 8       Issue 12    December  2010
Politics and Justice without borders

Theme this month
Further promoting the urgent need of the world to foster now our model of Earth governance and management,
Global Community welcomes newly appointed members:

Minister of Religions, Dr. BILONGO BOLO Serge Christian, and
Vice-Minister of Religions (African region), Dr. AWOA ALLO Paul Yannick

Prime article
A few words about Diplomacy Journal, by Germain Dufour, Spiritual Leader of the Global Community A few words about Diplomacy Journal

Table of Contents

This is the way     Message from the Spiritual Leader of the Global Community
Message from the Editor    GIM  Message from the Editor
Politics and Justice without borders: what we stand for Politics and Justice without borders: what we stand for
Message from the President of Global Parliament, the Federation of Global Governments    Message from the President of Earth Government
History of the Global Community organization, Earth Government and the Federation of Global Governments History of the Global Community Organization and Interim Earth Government Since its beginning in 1985, many accomplishments can be claimed by the Global Community: History of the Global Community organization and Earth Government
The Global Community days of celebration or remembering during the year
A reminder of her passing away. Virginie was a great global citizen, and we all owe her something that's forever. GIM  Message from the Editor
Life Day Celebration on May 26. Participate. Life Day Celebration May 26. Participate.
Participate now in Global Dialogue 2011, no fees  Participate now in Global Dialogue 2011
Global Dialogue 2011 Introduction Global Dialogue 2011 Introduction
Global Dialogue 2011 Program  Global Dialogue 2011 Program
Global Dialogue 2011 OVERVIEW of the process   Global Dialogue 2011 OVERVIEW of the process
Global Dialogue 2011 Call for Papers Global Dialogue 2011 Call for Papers

Nomination Letters

Minister of Religions, Dr. BILONGO BOLO Serge Christian, and
Vice-Minister of Religions (African region), Dr. AWOA ALLO Paul Yannick

( see enlargement  Enlargement of the letter)

( see enlargement  Enlargement of the letter)

We seek more symbiotical relationships with people and organizations We seek more symbiotical relationships
Note concerning personal info sent to us by email Note concerning personal info sent to us by email
We have now streamlined the participation process in the Global Dialogue We have now streamlined the participation process in the Global Dialogue


GIM daily proclamations main website

Authors of research papers and articles on global issues for this month

Subhankar Banerjee, Matt Chorley, Farooque Chowdhury, Stan Cox, Germain Dufour, Peter Gleick, Don Hazen, Tara Lohan, Vandana Shiva, Kourosh Ziabari

Subhankar Banerjee, 5 Mining Projects That Could Devastate the Entire Planet 5 Mining Projects That Could Devastate the Entire Planet
Matt Chorley, $5 Trillion: The Cost Each Year of Rainforest Destruction, $5 Trillion: The Cost Each Year of Rainforest Destruction</B>
Farooque Chowdhury, Climate Crisis, The Arctic And Geopolitics,  Climate Crisis, The Arctic And Geopolitics
Stan Cox, Is Gas Really 'Twice as Clean' as Coal? Is Gas Really 'Twice as Clean' as Coal?
Germain Dufour, A few words about Diplomacy Journal A few words about Diplomacy Journal
Peter Gleick, The Human Right to Water, at Last The Human Right to Water, at Last
Don Hazen, Don't Give Up: Sierra Club Leader on How We Can Win the Fight for Clean Energy Don't Give Up: Sierra Club Leader on How We Can Win the Fight for Clean Energy
Tara Lohan, Don't Give Up: Sierra Club Leader on How We Can Win the Fight for Clean Energy Don't Give Up: Sierra Club Leader on How We Can Win the Fight for Clean Energy
Vandana Shiva, Time To End War Against The Earth, Time To End War Against The Earth
Kourosh Ziabari, Which "Human" Rights Do You Call For? Which

Research papers and articles on global issues for this month
 Date sent  Theme or issue  Read
 November 4, 2010   $5 Trillion: The Cost Each Year of Rainforest Destruction
Matt Chorley, AlterNet,
British researchers set out the economic impact of species destruction -- and their findings are changing world's approach to global warming.

British scientific experts have made a major breakthrough in the fight to save the natural world from destruction, leading to an international effort to safeguard a global system worth at least $5 trillion a year to mankind.

Groundbreaking new research by a former banker, Pavan Sukhdev, to place a price tag on the worldwide network of environmental assets has triggered an international race to halt the destruction of rainforests, wetlands and coral reefs.

With experts warning that the battle to stem the loss of biodiversity is two decades behind the climate change agenda, the United Nations, the World Bank and ministers from almost every government insist no country can afford to believe it will be unaffected by the alarming rate at which species are disappearing. The Convention on Biological Diversity in Nagoya, Japan, later this month will shift from solely ecological concerns to a hard-headed assessment of the impact on global economic security.

The UK Government is championing a new system to identify the financial value of natural resources, and the potential hit to national economies if they are lost. The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (Teeb) project has begun to calculate the global economic costs of biodiversity loss. Initial results paint a startling picture. The loss of biodiversity through deforestation alone will cost the global economy up to $4.5trn (£2.8trn) each year -- $650 for every person on the planet, and just a fraction of the total damage being wrought by overdevelopment, intensive farming and climate change.

The annual economic value of the 63 million hectares of wetland worldwide is said to total $3.4bn. In the pharmaceutical trade, up to 50 per cent of all of the $640bn market comes from genetic resources. Anti-cancer agents from marine organisms alone are valued at up to $1bn a year.

Last week, a study by the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, the Natural History Museum in London and the International Union for Conservation of Nature suggested more than a fifth of the world's plant species are threatened with extinction. The coalition hopes that linking the disappearance of biodiversity to a threat to economic stability will act as a "wake-up call".

Caroline Spelman, the Environment Secretary, believes the UK has a crucial role in bringing countries together to agree on action. In an exclusive interview with The Independent on Sunday, Mrs. Spelman warned: "We are losing species hand over fist. I would be negligent if I didn't shout from the rooftops that we have a problem; that the loss of species will cost us money and it will undermine our resilience in the face of scientific and medical research. We are losing information that we cannot re-create that we may need to save lives and to save the planet as we know it."

The Government, working with Brazil, will use the 193-nation summit in Nagoya on 18 October to push for an agreement on sharing the benefits of biodiversity. They hope to thrash out an early draft of a deal which would ensure that regions rich in natural resources, including South America, Asia and Africa, receive the benefits enjoyed by developed countries. In many parts of the world, the survival of the natural environment is a matter of life and death for the people who live there. Forests contribute directly to the livelihoods of 90 per cent of the 1.2 billion people living in extreme poverty. Half of the population of the developing world depends indirectly on forests.

But for many, the environmental and economic damage is already done. The collapse of the Newfoundland cod fishery in the 1990s is said to have cost $2bn and tens of thousands of jobs, while mangrove degradation in Pakistan caused tens of millions of dollars of damage to the fishing, farming and timber industries.

More than a quarter of the world's original natural biodiversity had gone by 2000, and a further 11 per cent of land biodiversity is expected to be lost by 2050. According to some estimates, the rate of extinction is up to 1,000 times that expected without human activity and, now, climate change.

"The way we are doing things is not sustainable," Mrs. Spelman added. "Biodiversity is where climate change was 20 years ago -- people are still trying to understand what it means and its significance. Things that we thought nature provides for free, actually if you lose them, cost money."

The scenario is already being played out in China, where the demise of its bees has led to workers climbing ladders to cross-pollinate plants. "We have to do everything we can to stop that happening here and elsewhere," said Mrs. Spelman, who last month addressed the environmental event at the United Nations. Ban Ki-moon, the UN Secretary General, had demanded urgent action. "Too many people still fail to grasp the implications of this," he said. "We have all heard of the web of life. The way we live threatens to trap us in a web of death."

The breakthrough in the battle to persuade countries worldwide to sign up to the biodiversity agenda is the development of Teeb, part-funded by the British, German and Norwegian governments, which calculates the value of nature and the cost of its loss. Developed by Mr. Sukhdev, an Indian banker turned environmental economist, its data will be broken down by countries and regions. "'We must all work towards making the meeting in Nagoya a decisive moment in history," Mr. Sukhdev said.

Mrs. Spelman was critical of the last government for its approach to the problem. She told the IoS: "Mistakes have been made, well-intended, about saying we are going to stop the loss of biodiversity within a decade. Scientists will tell you that's not possible."

From greenbacks to green issues: The banker who wants to save the Earth

Who better to put a value on global biodiversity than an international banker with environmental credentials? Pavan Sukhdev, who spent much of his career working in international finance, was first approached by the EU Commission and Germany in March 2008 when he was with Deutsche Bank in India, and asked to measure the economic cost of the global loss of biodiversity.

Latests findings of the study were presented at the United Nations last month. It was widely praised in environmental circles for its ability to model the impact of a loss of biodiversity on global rates of poverty and economic inequality.

Mr. Sukhdev is leading a team of scientists in the project backed by the UK's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, along with the German, Norwegian, Dutch and Swedish governments. Prominent figures include Defra's chief scientific advisor, Prof Bob Watson, who is a leading expert on biodiversity.

Mr. Sukhdev was involved in environmental projects in his native India, including sitting on the board of the Bombay Environmental Action Group and working alongside the Indian States Trust to develop "green accounts" for businesses that also consider the environmental impact of economic development.

In 2008, he took a sabbatical from Deutsche Bank to become a special adviser to the United Nations Environment Programme, overseeing three programmes measuring the combined economic cost of global ecosystem degradation and biodiversity loss.

In his spare time he manages a model rainforest restoration and ecotourism project in Queensland, Australia, and farming in southern India.

Matt Chorley is a Political Correspondent with the UK Independent.
  Read $5 Trillion: The Cost Each Year of Rainforest Destruction
 November 11, 2010   Is Gas Really 'Twice as Clean' as Coal?
by Stan Cox , AlterNet,

Over the past year, the American Natural Gas Association has been running an aggressive public relations campaign. The central claim, widely heralded, is that natural gas is "twice as clean as coal." With that, the gas industry has invented a new virtue for its product through the trick of inverting and slightly stretching one fact about gas: that its carbon dioxide emissions are 55 percent of coal's emissions per kilowatt of electricity generated.

For an industry that wants to boost sales of natural gas, the "twice as clean" pitch is a much better slogan than, say, "Gas: It emits more than half as much carbon dioxide as coal, our worst greenhouse fuel!"

With its "twice as clean" claim, ANGA is venturing into previously unexplored public-relations territory. Will others follow? Will Burger King start touting its double cheeseburger (500 calories, 29 grams of fat) as being "more than twice as healthful" as a Wendy's Bacon Deluxe Triple Cheeseburger (1140 calories, 71 grams fat)? Why not? With good news in short supply these days, it seems this technique could be employed in many areas of our national life to provide much needed good cheer. To make anything look good, simply find something that's worse, turn a fraction into a multiple, and you've turned your liabilities upside down! For example:

Jobs: Coal-mining disasters in West Virginia, Chile and China this year reminded us that mining is one of the most dangerous occupations. But is it really so bad? Based on occupational fatality rates, mining is twice as safe as the agriculture/forestry/fishing sector.

Environment: Fresno, California has the fourth worst polluted air of any U.S. city, according to the American Lung Association. But look on the bright side. Air in Fresno is twice as clean as it is in the number-one polluted city of Los Angeles when you compare average ozone levels.

Health care: A prescription for Cerezyme, a drug for treating a dreadful condition called Gaucher disease, costs a patient $200,000 per year. That may seem outrageous unless you think of it as being twice as cheap as a $409,000-per-year prescription for Soliris (a treatment for an immune disorder called paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria that affects 8,000 Americans).

Of course, you can always go beyond "twice as good:"

Foreign policy: The war in Afghanistan is becoming more deadly all the time, but at an average of 150 U.S. troop deaths per year since 2001, the Afghan war is still almost four times as harmless to our military as the war in Iraq, which has killed 590 American troops annually.

Energy policy: The 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill, which dumped about half a million barrels of crude oil into the sea, no longer looks so bad. We now know it was 10 times as eco-friendly as BP's Deepwater Horizon spill.

Financial reform: To date, seven people have gone to jail in connection with a massive Ponzi scheme run by Minnesota business owner Tom Petters. He was convicted last year for cheating his investors out of a whopping $3.5 billion. But when you think about it, Petters was 18 times as honest as the now-imprisoned Ponzi artist Bernie Madoff, who took his investors for almost $65 billion!

The "twice as clean" fallacy also completely ignores other symptoms of our increasing natural-gas addiction. Methane, the chief component of natural gas, has more than 20 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide; as a result, leakage from mining and distribution of natural gas has the annual greenhouse impact of more than 100 million metric tons of carbon dioxide.

Then there's the crisis now brewing over massive water pollution caused by hydraulic fracturing, the method used to get gas out of lucrative shale deposits. Coal mining has its high-profile ecological and human disasters, and now the destruction caused by gas mining, especially in the shale deposits, is becoming apparent.

On the defensive and desperate, national environmental groups have been promoting gas as an antidote to coal. But America needs to be curbing or cutting its consumption of all fossil fuels, not encouraging greater use of some of them. ANGA would claim it wants the accelerated sales of gas in order to displace coal use (just as tobacco companies used to argue their advertising was aimed at luring current smokers into switching brands, not inducing young people to start smoking.) But history shows that increased consumption of one fossil fuel doesn't bring decreased use of others. For example, U.S. Department of Energy projections show consumption of coal and gas rising in parallel between now and 2030.

If such trends aren't reversed, temperatures on Earth could rise by as much as six degrees Celsius by the end of the century. But don't let that bother you too much. We'll still be 22 times as cool here as we'd be on Venus!

Stan Cox's latest book is 'Losing Our Cool: Uncomfortable Truths About Our Air-Conditioned World.'
  Read Is Gas Really 'Twice as Clean' as Coal?
 November 12, 2010   Don't Give Up: Sierra Club Leader on How We Can Win the Fight for Clean Energy
Don Hazen and Tara Lohan , AlterNet,

There's no doubt that progressives took a trouncing in the midterm election, and there is ample reason to fear the influx of anti-science GOPers and Tea Party candidates coming into office. In the days following the election, President Obama said he was abandoning a climate bill for the next few years, and disappointed environmentalists by further extending a hand to the natural gas and nuclear industries.

This news comes at the same time the Union of Concerned Scientists released new information warning about the threat of an unprecedented number of wildfires that are the likely result of a warming planet, and the risk of a massive die-off of coral reefs -- our undersea forests -- that are crucial to the ocean ecosystem.

With pressing climate change threats colliding with political stonewalling, what do we do? AlterNet recently sat down with Michael Brune, who took the helm of the Sierra Club earlier this year, after serving as the executive director of Rainforest Action Network for seven years. A new edition of Brune's book, Coming Clean: Breaking America's Addiction to Oil and Coal has just been released. Brune gave us his take on what we can do next, how we can continue to prepare for a clean energy future, and how his organization of over a million members, is planning to harness its potential.

Don Hazen: Obviously this election was disappointing on many levels, including environmental issues. On top of that we have this phenomenon of almost the whole Republican party becoming climate deniers. The big question is what happens now -- to the environmental movement, the Sierra Club, the whole issue of climate change?

Michael Brune: I would say, as bad as the election results were, it's not as though we have to give up on climate change or bow down to those conservatives in Congress. Democrats do still hold the White House, one branch of Congress, we do have a lot of champions in Congress, the courts, the State Houses, the White House -- a lot of people who do have power and intellectually agree with the need for greater urgency on this challenge.

There is a lot we can do to stay on the offense and make dramatic progress in the next few years. Even with a realistic, sober analysis of our situation, I can still see ample reason for optimism, which isn't to diminish the challenges we face and it's not to deny the fact that the challenges are steeper now than they were a few weeks ago and they are more daunting then at the beginning of 2010 or last summer.

However, I not only think can we accomplish a lot, I'm confident that we will.

DH: What are some examples of what we can accomplish?

MB: The fight against coal is one of the areas where we should be the most optimistic. The work that the Sierra Club has been doing over the last few years on climate has been to stop the construction of new coal-fired power plants. There were 150 new plants that were proposed early in the Bush years -- the Sierra Club and a big movement of grassroots groups have defeated 138 of them! There are a couple dozen more that have been added since then so there are more on the books but we have a plan in place where we think we can defeat 90 percent.

So that's historic -- that's a major change -- it gives us the opportunity to create a major change in how power is produced in the country. Now we are in a situation where the U.S. has an old and outdated fleet of coal-fired power plant -- 78 percent of U.S. coal plants are 30 years or older, 60 percent are 40 years or older. We've got dozens and dozens which were build in the '20s, '30s and '40s that don't have pollution controls, they don't have scrubbers, they don't have effective ways to deal with soot and smog and coal ash -- they consume large amounts of water and create large amounts of water pollution. And the kicker is that they are now being held to higher standards, where as though they have been grandfathered in under the Clear Air Act in 1970 and they were grandfathered in when the Clean Air Act was reauthorized, the administration is going through a series of rule-makings that will force these plants to either be upgraded or retired which creates a big opportunity.

So the Sierra Club, which has been focusing on stopping new plants from being built, will now shift resources to these old plants and our goal is to retire half of the existing coal plants in the country and replace them with clean energy over the next decade. If you think about the impacts of that, politically we'll have a coal industry that is half the size and we'll have solar and wind and efficiency companies that are growing larger and have more power and are more profitable.

DH: There is a scenario, which is not a crazy scenario given that there are 21 Democratic Senate seats open in 2012, that we will have a conservative president and significant control of both Houses. Are your plans still feasible with that kind of opposition?

MB: Even right now we are starting to see big threats coming from folks in Congress in both Houses challenging the EPA's authority to regulate under the Clean Air Act. Over the next few weeks to months to years, we will see a variety of attacks on the EPA -- we'll see lawsuits filed to slow down the EPA and affect the implementation of different rules; we'll see legislative efforts to try to prevent the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases; we've already seen bills that will delay the EPA's authority to regulate parts of the Clean Air Act; we'll probably see a national version of Prop 23; we'll see efforts to restrict the funding of the EPA probably; and we'll see personal attacks on Lisa Jackson and deputy administrators. There's going to be a whole lot of heat coming toward the EPA -- we've already seen it and it's only going to intensify.

That's with the current Congress -- so of course if there's a conservative president in a few years one can envision the scenario will intensify and if we had a new EPA head we wouldn't see that much progress. Elections are important, they do matter.

But there is still a lot we can accomplish between now and then. The rule on mercury is going to be finalized and the rule on coal ash is going to be finalized, as important examples. You have coal plants that are already not economical, that are already operating at the margins, whereas wind is getting cheaper, more efficient, more technologically advanced. There is no doubt that we will make continued progress to reduce our dependence on coal, where there is doubt is how far we'll go and how quickly that will happen.

First we have to stop the problem from getting worse -- we can't continue to build new coal plants, then we have to shut the existing ones down, replace them with clean energy and take care of the workers.

Tara Lohan: Given the subsidies for coal and oil right now, how can we get renewables to be competitive?

MB: The subsidies are a foot on the neck for solar and wind companies. Attacking subsidies is one area where we have a sliver of hope that we can work with some conservative members of Congress and address the deficit and level the playing field for a wide variety of energy solutions. We don't know what the posture of the new Congress is going to be but that clearly will be one area where there is bipartisan support for cutting subsidies that really don't contribute to the public good.

TL: Your Beyond Coal Campaign has been really successful. How do we replicate that for other initiatives?

MB: It's bottoms up and a little bit top down, so one of the things that's unique about the Sierra Club is that we have a chapter in every state and a local volunteer group in just about every major city in the country. And the coal fight is very local -- there are plants in communities that are poisoning the people that live around them. A lot of our strategies come from the grassroots and then it is also supported by the national office in terms of our legal team, which has filed hundreds of lawsuits against new and old coal plants.

The growth area where we haven't done our job yet on the coal campaign is that we have to get better as an organization and a movement advocating for the solutions that we want to see. We have to be as sophisticated, as powerful, as creative in helping to fill the market share for clean energy. That is increasingly becoming important -- it's one thing to stop a new plant from being built but when you're arguing for a new plant to be shut down you have to make a plausible case for how you can keep the lights on.

So, the Sierra Club and the entire environmental movement needs to put more resources toward this -- change our budgets and add more staff and volunteers toward the task. To address that at the Club we've just combined our coal and clean energy campaigns so that they are one now, so each campaigner has a mandate for how many megawatts of old dirty power they have to help ensure is retired on a yearly basis, and how many megawatts of clean energy they need to help to get established.

TL: Where are you seeing the most growth in terms of getting renewable energy?

MB: The two areas of real growth are desert Southwest solar facilities, and we are seeing a lot of progress, but not a lot of megawatts yet, for offshore wind on the eastern shore. We are really interested in scaling up offshore wind in the Great Lakes, sited appropriately. What we need to clearly put more attention towards and create grassroots campaigns to support is more distributed generation.

For us, we're really interested in the upper Midwest where states like Wisconsin or Michigan have a lot of old dirty coal plants. The region gets a majority of their power from coal -- 60 percent or more. They have a large manufacturing base, a lot of skilled workers who are out of work, when you are talking about off-shore wind, it has got to be locally sourced, it's not economical to be shipping it from China, so there is a great opportunity to shut down coal plants in the same region and open manufacturing facilities and then site wind farms nearby. There is a set of holistic regional solutions there that can make big progress. We are going to create a new political dynamic when we do that where the clean energy concept isn't just a theoretical concept -- real people, real families will have jobs, and their lives will be impacted by the solutions we're promoting.

TL: One of the great things that I saw come out of the defeat of Prop 23 in California is that people got the connection between the economy and the environment -- that environmental regulations can create jobs and are stimulating, not hurting the state's economy, but it seems we haven't seen that elsewhere in the country as much.

MB: I left San Francisco on Election Day to go to DC, and the reason for that is that the story we have in California is pretty important in the sense that we have the third highest unemployment in the country. Voters in California took a stand for clean energy not in spite of the economic downturn but because of the economic downtown. They are seeing investments in clean energy as a core strategy to engineer an economic recovery.

DH: How does the Sierra Club fit in with the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Nature Conservancy and those other big groups? Are you all relatively compatible? Are there leadership gatherings and cooperation?

MB: There is an entity called the Green Group, which I think was once the group of eight or 10 but now there are 35 environmental organizations ranging from Audubon, TNC, NRDC, Sierra Club, Green for All, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and others -- we meet three times a year. We moved our last meeting down to New Orleans to talk about oil and how we can work together and be more aggressive to reduce our dependence on oil.

It's a collegial, collaborative atmosphere, but we are going to have to evolve and become much more effective as a collection of organizations if we are going to meet the challenges we currently face.

DH: Is there growth in the environmental movement? Are young people apolitical?

MB: There is the potential for growth, I don't see many groups that are exploding in size, but there is not a shortage of activism, really. If you look at the coal work we are doing, it's a huge movement of organizations and individuals -- it's really easy to get into because there are specific places and specific policies. There are coal plants on 60 college campuses across the country and we've just hired an organizer for every one. You've got coal plants that are inside major cities. We don't see a shortage there -- but when it comes to broader national policy issues, it is probably more challenging than it was five or 10 years ago. I think a big reason for that is because there is just a declining confidence among too many activists that when they engage they can make a difference. They believe it more for local issues than for big national changes.

DH: You have the advantage of being able to go hyper-local with your infrastructure or global, while most groups can't.

MB: Yes, and I think one of the challenges we have is to remind people and inspire people and show people when we are making a big difference. We talk about 138 coal plants that have been defeated as a way of thinking about when people do organize and put their energy together for a specific purpose we can do great work. And we can apply that strategic focus toward bigger challenges ahead. Over the next few years as we create a track record of shutting down old facilities, capturing how that is happening and popularizing what actually worked is as important as shutting down the facilities itself because it is necessary to build momentum.

TL: Considering a climate bill has now been pronounced dead in Congress and with the president, how do we approach this issue, which many see as political suicide?

MB: I think that right now we are in a little bit of a trough where people are intimidated or feeling timid in talking about climate change and so they don't want to -- I don't really buy that -- I don't think it is as much of a politically radioactive term as some people will say. I think we should continue to talk about climate change and the Sierra Club will. At the same time it's natural that different people will be inspired by different things. Many people will be inspired to take action because they are concerned about public health, other people are really inspired by clean energy, other people are motivated by national security or economic competitiveness. What I think is most strategic for groups like the Sierra Club is to address all of those values, so we are more interested in telling people how our solutions will help people solve their every day problems instead of engaging in these debates about what's the right words to choose or the right frame.

TL: What about the international community that is waiting for actual legislative change in this country?

MB: I'm not saying that we shouldn't work on climate change, but the international community will have to adjust its expectation. It doesn't look like we are going to produce comprehensive climate legislation in the next couple of years. We need it. But we aren't going to get it. What we will get is bigger reductions in carbon over the next five-10 years than we would have gotten under any of the climate bills that were introduced in the last Congress. By cutting carbon coming from coal and cutting our oil consumption, we'll produce more carbon reductions between now and 2020 than was in any recent bill. I think it's important to note that one single bill coming through Congress wasn't the only way to address climate change in the U.S.

TL: In terms of cutting oil you're talking about fuel efficiency and electric cars. What else?

MB: Yeah, so that's most of it -- 71 percent of oil is used for transportation now and a lot of that is in cars, trucks, SUVs and heavy duty trucks. So it's a combination of electrifying transportation, using hybrids, mode shifting -- shifting freight away from heavy duty trucks to rail or boats -- and electrifying the rail system. Maybe for certain applications moving to compressed natural gas or liquified natural gas and then looking at what role biofuels might play in acting as a replacement for oil for airlines and other long distance uses.

TL: Where are you guys on the natural gas scenario and the idea that gas is a 'bridge fuel' from dirty to clean energy?

MB: We don't think it's a bridge fuel really, because it doesn't get us to a clean energy future. We have to get off coal as quickly as possible. It's the dirtiest fuel and natural gas is cleaner than coal and in some cases cleaner than oil, but it's not clean. As we retire a coal plant we want a mix of efficiency and solar and wind and in some cases geothermal where appropriate and natural gas to fill in the mix. But it's got to be produced right. I spent some time in the Marcellus Shale and in Dimock, Pennsylvania -- it's just awful what is happening there. We have created a natural gas campaign at the Club since I started to address a lot of the concerns that fracking poses to water quality and air quality. To sum it up, we think that natural gas is an improvement in our energy mix, but there is a huge, fat asterisk next to gas that needs to be addressed.

DH: I've been putting together a list of all the reasons why Democrats lost. Is it that right-wing conservatives want to win more?

MB: We don't seem to have the same passion, we have not yet given evidence that we have the same enthusiasm and the depth in our organizing and so we need to reconnect to our base -- we have to lead with our values and not the policy solutions. There is way too much talk about cap and trade or cap and dividend and a lot less talk of the reasons why we are fighting for the things we are fighting for. There is a lot too much talk about the right frame or parts per million and a lot less talk about how we can cut pollution and make people's lives better and improve health and jobs.

But it can be turned around. We are not set in stone. Obama can plant his flag on any number of important issues, like ending mountaintop removal mining.

DH: Is there anything we haven't asked you that you'd like AlterNet readers to know?

MB: Here's what we think is important to do now: We are re-prioritizing, reconnecting to our base and working to build a coalition of progressive organizations to develop a really clear and complete vision for how a clean energy transition will make big improvements in people's lives. I know there is a lot of skepticism and pessimism about what our challenges are as a movement but I think that now is not the time to be timid or depressed; now is really our time to be clear and strategic and bold in the solutions we are advocating for.

Don Hazen is the executive editor of AlterNet. Tara Lohan is a senior editor at AlterNet. You can follow her on Twitter @TaraLohan.
  Read Don't Give Up: Sierra Club Leader on How We Can Win the Fight for Clean Energy
 November 16, 2010   5 Mining Projects That Could Devastate the Entire Planet
Subhankar Banerjee, AlterNet,
Burning coal and oil for more than 100 years has resulted in human-made climate change. We cannot allow another 100 years of the same.

I’ll tell you about five Godzilla-scale fossil-digging projects in North America that if approved will set us on a course to repeat our past with grave implications for the future of our planet. You may have already heard about some of these projects individually, but the urgency to stop them collectively is more than ever before.

I’m not talking about fossil-digging projects that tell us something about our ecological past or our cultural past. I’m talking about digging for coal and oil. I remember reading somewhere that “the largest profits are made by making and selling products that go up in the air.” Throughout the twentieth century digging for coal and oil, and then burning it to send carbon into the air was enough to ensure astronomical profits for a handful of fossil-fuel corporations.

But I also remember the saying, “What goes up must come down.” For a hundred years, burning all that coal and oil gave us -- the humans -- great comforts, but the carbon we sent up in the air also resulted in the tremendous pain of climate change -- the rapid melting of sea ice and icebergs that is destroying Arctic marine ecology, the ocean acidification and coral deaths that are causing havoc to marine life in the tropical and temperate seas, droughts and beetle infestations that have killed hundreds of millions of trees around the world, intense forest fires and floods -- remember Russia and Pakistan this summer? The list goes on and on ... you know the story. Our planet is also experiencing the greatest rate of biodiversity loss ever and climate change will continue to worsen the ongoing tragedy of species extinction.

Recently, ecophilosopher and activist Dr. Vandana Shiva began her acceptance speech at the Sydney Opera House for the 2010 Sydney Peace Prize with these words: “When we think of wars in our times, our minds turn to Iraq and Afghanistan. But the bigger war is the war against the planet. This war has its roots in an economy that fails to respect ecological and ethical limits -- limits to inequality, limits to injustice, limits to greed and economic concentration.”

In terms of calendar years, we stepped into the twenty-first century about ten years ago, but in all other ways we have continued to live the life of the twentieth century, with our ongoing love affair with coal and oil. If you think we are entering the twenty-first century with a wonderful clean energy future that will be healthy for all life on earth, think again! If there is one thing the U.S. midterm election has guaranteed, it is this: Oil and coal lobbies and their climate denier supporters in Congress are ready to force us farther into the new century with another one hundred years of fossil-digging in North America. Right now they’re probably eating gourmet steak flown in from Argentina to gather strength and drinking fine Italian wine to gather passion to unleash an unprecedented fossil-digging campaign after the 112th Congress is sworn in come January.

The process has already begun. Last week Shell Oil launched a massive ad campaign to pressure the Obama administration into allowing them to begin drilling in the Beaufort Sea of Arctic Alaska during 2011. The New York Times reported, “The company (Shell) is placing ads for the rest of the month in national newspapers, liberal and conservative political magazines and media focused on Congress.” In late May, as the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico was unfolding in front of our eyes (a long-forgotten event for our amnesiac culture), I wrote a story titled “BPing the Arctic?” that pointed to the dangers if President Obama allows Shell to drill in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas of the Arctic Ocean. I also wrote about Shell’s “Let’s Go” ad campaign in September. If you read these pieces and understand what’s now unfolding, you’ll know Shell isn’t kidding around: They’re spending a lot of money that will go far toward their plan to drill in the icy Arctic Ocean. President Obama ought not to cave under the pressure of Shell’s ad campaign and must not issue the permit for 2011 Beaufort Sea drilling, and also Chukchi Sea drilling if they later ask for it.

How Much Fossil Fuel Are We Talking About?

It’s worth taking a quick look at some of the numbers from five massive fossil-digging projects that the fossil-fuel lobby will be pushing hard during the 112th Congress.

Oil in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas

By current estimates, there are some 30 billion barrels of oil in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas of Arctic Alaska. Let’s put that number in perspective. In the U. S. each year we consume a little over 7.5 billion barrels of oil, so those 30 billion barrels only amounts to 4 years of U. S. consumption. Not that long, right? But that’s not how it works. We don’t eat dinner with just a big hunk of steak only -- we may eat a salad before, plus a bit of steamed veggies, maybe even a baked potato, add a glass or two of wine or margarita, then maybe some desert, and even a cup of decaf coffee. Add all that up, and a 15-minute act is extended to an hour and a half. It’s the same way with America’s energy consumption, with oil coming from elsewhere and also coal, gas, and tar sands contributing to the energy needs. Shell could potentially keep drilling in the Arctic Ocean for the next twenty or thirty years. In the process, they’ll create massive dead zones in a cold, slow-growing habitat that will take centuries to heal, unlike the warm Gulf of Mexico, where things grow relatively fast. We must fight to stop Shell from drilling in America’s Arctic Seas.

Oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

For the past ten years, much of my work has focused on the ecological and human rights issues in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the most biologically diverse conservation area in the Arctic. I have worked closely with human rights organization Gwich’in Steering Committee in Fairbanks, Alaska and with activist environmental organization Alaska Wilderness League in Washington, D.C.

BP’s oil-and-methane spill in the Gulf of Mexico prompted Alaska Native peoples of the Gwich’in Nation to gather in late July in Fort Yukon, Alaska at the confluence of the Yukon and Porcupine Rivers. They created a magnificent human aerial-art PROTECT with images of caribou antler and salmon, two species the Gwich’in communities critically depend on for subsistence food, and both these species are threatened by climate change and potential oil-and-gas development. I’d urge you to visit the Gwich’in Steering Committee website to learn about the human-rights implications of drilling in the Arctic Refuge and the important work they have been doing since 1988 for the protection of the Arctic Refuge coastal plain from oil-and-gas drilling.

So how much oil is there in the Arctic Refuge? Best estimates go from about 7 billion to 16 billion barrels, meaning 1 to 2.5 years of U. S. annual oil consumption. Again, with some help from other energy sources, oil companies could potentially keep drilling in the Arctic Refuge for ten years or more. In the process, they’ll turn one of the most important ecocultural regions in the entire Arctic into an industrial wasteland and then leave.

As it happens, the 50th anniversary of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is on December 6. Photographer Jeff Jones and writer Laurie Hoyle has just published a magnificent photo-essay book Arctic Sanctuary: Images of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge that you can check out. And conservation organizations have a proposal in front of President Obama to once-and-for-all designate the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as a National Monument, which the President ought to do before the start of the 112th Congress.

Coal in the Utukok River Upland, Arctic Alaska

I doubt you’ve heard of the Utukok River Upland in northwest Arctic Alaska, or the projection that it contains the largest coal deposit in North America -- an estimated 3.5 trillion tons of bituminous coal, which is nearly 10% of world’s known coal reserves. Let’s put that number in perspective. The annual coal consumption in the U.S. is about 1 billion ton, which means at the current rate of consumption we could potentially burn the Arctic coal for the next 3,500 years. No, that’s not a typo -- 3,500 years! Burning coal for the past couple of centuries has brought our planet earth down to her knees with toxicity and now climate change. Can you even imagine what it would mean for life-on-earth if we burn all that coal for the next 3,500 years?

Much of that Arctic coal sits atop the core calving area of the Western Arctic caribou herd, the largest caribou herd in Alaska, estimated at some 377,000 animals that nearly 40 indigenous communities from three tribes -- Inupiat, Yupik, and Athabascan -- rely on for subsistence food, as well as cultural and spiritual identities. That coal is also on or near the surface of the land, meaning the development will be mountaintop removal, not unlike the devastation that has been taking place in the Appalachian coal belts of the American Southeast.

I first went to the Utukok River Upland in June 2006 with writer Peter Matthiessen and other colleagues. We witnessed caribous with newborn calves, wolves that seemed to have never seen a human before, grizzlies that ran away at catching our scent, birds that were nesting on the tundra and on the cliffs of riverbanks, and so much more. We came away with a great appreciation for the ecological fecundity of this magnificent and remote region. If you’re curious, you can read Peter’s essay on the experience, which appeared in The New York Review of Books, and my essay, which appeared in the anthology Alaska Native Reader: History, Culture, Politics.

While no coal development permit has yet been given in the Utukok River Uplands inside the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPRA), but in 2006 the Canadian mining company BHP Billiton began exploration just outside, in the land owned by the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation, where the Western Arctic caribou herd with their newborn calves gather in massive numbers, up to 250,000 animals during their post-calving aggregation. We must make sure no permit for coal is ever given in the NPRA federal lands.

Tar Sands and Shale Oil in Alberta, the Rocky Mountains, and the Great Plains

In a powerful recent piece in Yale Environment 360, Keith Schneider points out some disturbing numbers: “The tar sands region of northern Alberta, Canada contains recoverable oil reserves conservatively estimated at 175 billion barrels, and with new technology could reach 400 billion barrels”; and “Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming hold oil shale reserves estimated to contain 1.2 trillion to 1.8 trillion barrels of oil.” Schneider continues, “If current projections turn out to be accurate, there would be enough oil and gas to power the United States for at least another century.”

There is one serious catch. Tar sands and shale oil are the dirtiest forms of energy and are the most environmentally destructive in its recovery and production. They produce far more greenhouse gas than conventional oil and gas, meaning more accelerated climate change, and require huge amounts of water for their production. It takes 2.5 to 6.5 gallons of water to produce 1 gallon of tar sands oil. You can do the math -- this is certainly not sustainable. At a time when the American West is already suffering from massive droughts and high temperatures due to climate change, these unconventional fossil-digging projects will undoubtedly spark great wars over oil-or-water.

Coal in Appalachia

In late September, leading climate scientist Dr. James Hansen and more than 100 activists from Appalachia Rising were arrested in front of the White House in Washington, D.C., for protesting mountaintop removal coal mining in the Appalachia. Jeff Biggers reported, “Appalachian residents are calling on the EPA to halt any new permit on the upcoming decision over the massive Spruce mountaintop removal mine.” The Spruce No. 1 mine in Logan County, West Virginia, would be a gigantic mountaintop removal mine that would bring great devastation to the region by destroying thousands of acres of forests, burying 7 miles of streams, and ending the way of life of many Appalachian families.

So how much coal is in the Appalachia? The Energy Information Administration has estimated that there are about 53 billion tons of coal reserves in the Appalachian Basin. Potentially we could be digging for that coal for the rest of this century. But that coal will come to us with great devastation. If you’d like to know more about the great social and environmental costs of mountaintop coal mining, you can check out this article, “Coal Controversy in Appalachia,” published in NASA’s Earth Observatory website.

On October 15, EPA administrator Lisa Jackson recommended the withdrawal of the Spruce No.1 mining permit. With climate deniers firmly placed in the 112th Congress, we can surmise safely that this fight is far from over.

To understand why Hansen is willing to risk his government job and his scientific credibility by getting arrested time and again, you simply have to take a look at the title of his article in late August in the Guardian: “Am I an activist for caring about my grandchildren’s future? I guess I am.”

We Must End Coal and Oil to Start Clean Energy

As I think about our inability so far to end our fossil-fuel based economy and start a clean-energy future, I think about the following words by T. S. Eliot from his poem, Little Gidding, which is part of his masterpiece Four Quartet:

What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from.

The beginning of coal and oil has been the beginning of the end of sustainable living on earth; to make an end for coal and oil would ensure a beginning for clean energy. But unless we make such an end, there’ll be no beginning for clean energy to take us back to sustainable living on earth.

Next year the First Family will be taking showers with water warmed by the mighty sun falling on the solar panels that will be installed on the roof of the White House. But such small symbolic action and other clean-energy initiatives will be meaningless if the five fossil fuel projects I mentioned take off happily during the 112th Congress.

We’ve burned coal and oil for more than hundred years that has resulted in the human-made climate change we’re dealing with right now. We cannot allow one more hundred years of the same. So we must stand up and STOP any maniacal plan that would set us on a path to ‘another one hundred years of fossil-digging in North America.’

Fighting these mega-scale projects may seem overwhelming for any individual, but here are a few things you can do this month:

Art -- Find out about 350 EARTH (November 20-28), the largest human aerial-art installation ever to fight climate change, and see how you can get involved.

Letter -- Write a letter for the ‘Million Letter March: The Write Way to Stop Climate Change’ campaign.

Petition -- Sign the Alaska Wilderness League ‘Keeping it Wild’ petition and urge President Obama to designate the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as a National Monument.

LTE -- Write ‘Letter to the Editor’ opposing Shell’s 2011 drilling plan in the Beaufort Sea.

Posters -- Work with artists and writers in your community and create posters on all of the five projects I mentioned and distribute them throughout your town to educate your community members. Being informed about these fossil-digging projects is the first step toward engagement that may lead to action.

For our part, we’ll regularly present stories on this series at ClimateStoryTellers.org.

Subhankar Banerjee is a photographer, writer, activist, and founder of ClimateStoryTellers.org.
  Read 5 Mining Projects That Could Devastate the Entire Planet
 November 1, 2010   The Human Right to Water, at Last
Peter Gleick, AlterNet,

I've often daydreamed about what an alien civilization would think about Earth if it were ever to come visit, given our fractured ethnic, political, and economic planet, the epidemic violence, our ecological ignorance and mismanagement, the miserable way so many people live in poverty and misery, and our global failure to eradicate basic diseases such as cholera that simply require safe water and sanitation systems available to everyone reading this column.

Indeed, as Calvin says to Hobbes in Bill Watterson's classic cartoon, "Sometimes I think the surest sign that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us."

One of these global failures was the failure to acknowledge a formal human right to water. There is a formal international human right to life, to human health, to an adequate standard of living, to adequate food, and more. But until a few weeks ago, there was no formal human right to water.

There is now. On September 24th, the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva adopted a binding resolution that

"Affirms that the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation is derived from the right to an adequate standard of living and inextricably related to the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, as well as the right to life and human dignity"

This declaration was a long time coming. The planet's bedrock political and civil human rights laws were put in place over 60 years ago. The United States played a leading role in formulating and supporting those laws, in line with our democratic principles, our commitment to rights, and our national character. And while there are occasional controversies over definitions, and occasional government policies that ignored or flouted these principles and rights, the US continues to be a leading voice for these rights.

Conversely, the United States has not played a leading role in, and indeed has often been in opposition to, extending human rights law into the area of social, economic, and cultural rights, even though major international covenants covering these rights were passed by the UN in the 1960s. And the US has never supported a human right to water. Until now.

More than a decade ago, I wrote a journal article on the human right to water that stated:

"Access to a basic water requirement is a fundamental human right implicitly and explicitly supported by international law, declarations, and State practice... access to water can be inferred as a derivative right necessary to meet the explicit rights to health and an adequate standard of life."

And in subsequent years, discussions and negotiations expanded at the UN, in national governments, in international water meetings, and in academia about the justification for such a right and the responsibilities and duties that would accompany it. The negotiations over this right dragged on and on, with the US and a few other countries consistently opposed to extending human rights law to water. The long discussions finally ended with a General Assembly resolution in July, followed by the UN's Human Rights Council formal resolution in late September, and on September 30th, the US government (somewhat grumpily, I think) affirmed its agreement with these resolutions. In their statement explaining their vote in favor, the US said:

"The United States is proud to take the significant step of joining consensus on this important resolution regarding the right to safe drinking water and sanitation, which is to be progressively realized. The United States remains deeply committed to finding solutions to the world's water challenges. Safe drinking water and sanitation are essential to the rights of all people to an adequate standard of living, and to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health."

This is a first step, not a last step. Will finally acknowledging a human right to water and sanitation solve the world's water and sanitation problems? No.

Water Number: 4 Good Reasons for the Human Right to Water.

But here are four reasons why it is a good idea:

1. Acknowledging such a right will encourage the international community and individual governments to renew their efforts to meet basic human needs for water for their populations.

2. By acknowledging such a right, pressures to translate that right into specific national and international legal obligations and responsibilities are much more likely to occur.

3. This clear declaration will help maintain a spotlight of attention on the deplorable state of water management in many parts of the world.

4. Finally, explicitly acknowledging a human right to water can help set specific priorities for water policy, which is often fragmented, uncoordinated, and focused on providing more water for some people, rather than some water for all people.

And there's a fifth reason: it's just the right thing to do.

What is needed now is to develop appropriate tools and mechanisms to achieve progressively the full realization of these rights, including appropriate legislation, comprehensive plans and strategies for the water sector, and financial approaches. As the UN has noted, the right to water also requires full transparency of the planning and implementation process in the provision of safe drinking water and sanitation and the active, free and meaningful participation of the concerned local communities and relevant stakeholders, including vulnerable and marginalized groups. And it is time to acknowledge that even here in the richest country of the world, there are people without access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation, and to work harder to meet those needs as soon as possible.

In the end, I do not think that finally meeting basic needs for water and sanitation will occur just because there is finally a clear acceptance of a legal human right to water and rules for what governments must do to progressively realize those rights. But it is certain to help accelerate the day when safe water and sanitation are available for all. Whether anyone out there is watching or not.

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/gleick/detail?entry_id=75517#ixzz1448rFQqS

Dr. Peter Gleick is president of the Pacific Institute, an internationally recognized water expert and a MacArthur Fellow. This post originally appeared in Gleick's City Brights blog at SFGate.
  Read The Human Right to Water, at Last
 November 4, 2010   Time To End War Against The Earth
by Vandana Shiva , Countercurrent,

When we think of wars in our times, our minds turn to Iraq and Afghanistan. But the bigger war is the war against the planet. This war has its roots in an economy that fails to respect ecological and ethical limits - limits to inequality, limits to injustice, limits to greed and economic concentration.

A handful of corporations and of powerful countries seeks to control the earth's resources and transform the planet into a supermarket in which everything is for sale. They want to sell our water, genes, cells, organs, knowledge, cultures and future.

The continuing wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and onwards are not only about "blood for oil". As they unfold, we will see that they are about blood for food, blood for genes and biodiversity and blood for water.

The war mentality underlying military-industrial agriculture is evident from the names of Monsanto's herbicides - ''Round-Up'', ''Machete'', ''Lasso''. American Home Products, which has merged with Monsanto, gives its herbicides similarly aggressive names, including ''Pentagon'' and ''Squadron''.This is the language of war. Sustainability is based on peace with the earth.

The war against the earth begins in the mind. Violent thoughts shape violent actions. Violent categories construct violent tools. And nowhere is this more vivid than in the metaphors and methods on which industrial, agricultural and food production is based. Factories that produced poisons and explosives to kill people during wars were transformed into factories producing agri-chemicals after the wars.

The year 1984 woke me up to the fact that something was terribly wrong with the way food was produced. With the violence in Punjab and the disaster in Bhopal, agriculture looked like war. That is when I wrote The Violence of the Green Revolution and why I started Navdanya as a movement for an agriculture free of poisons and toxics.

Pesticides, which started as war chemicals, have failed to control pests. Genetic engineering was supposed to provide an alternative to toxic chemicals. Instead, it has led to increased use of pesticides and herbicides and unleashed a war against farmers.

The high-cost feeds and high-cost chemicals are trapping farmers in debt - and the debt trap is pushing farmers to suicide. According to official data, more than 200,000 Indian farmers have committed suicide in India since 1997.

Making peace with the earth was always an ethical and ecological imperative. It has now become a survival imperative for our species.

Violence to the soil, to biodiversity, to water, to atmosphere, to farms and farmers produces a warlike food system that is unable to feed people. One billion people are hungry. Two billion suffer food-related diseases - obesity, diabetes, hypertension and cancers.

There are three levels of violence involved in non-sustainable development. The first is the violence against the earth, which is expressed as the ecological crisis. The second is the violence against people, which is expressed as poverty, destitution and displacement. The third is the violence of war and conflict, as the powerful reach for the resources that lie in other communities and countries for their limitless appetites.

When every aspect of life is commercialised, living becomes more costly, and people are poor, even if they earn more than a dollar a day. On the other hand, people can be affluent in material terms, even without the money economy, if they have access to land, their soils are fertile, their rivers flow clean, their cultures are rich and carry traditions of producing beautiful homes and clothing and delicious food, and there is social cohesion, solidarity and spirit of community.

The elevation of the domain of the market, and money as man-made capital, to the position of the highest organising principle for societies and the only measure of our well-being has led to the undermining of the processes that maintain and sustain life in nature and society.

The richer we get, the poorer we become ecologically and culturally. The growth of affluence, measured in money, is leading to a growth in poverty at the material, cultural, ecological and spiritual levels.

The real currency of life is life itself and this view raises questions: how do we look at ourselves in this world? What are humans for? And are we merely a money-making and resource-guzzling machine? Or do we have a higher purpose, a higher end?

I believe that ''earth democracy'' enables us to envision and create living democracies based on the intrinsic worth of all species, all peoples, all cultures - a just and equal sharing of this earth's vital resources, and sharing the decisions about the use of the earth's resources.

Earth democracy protects the ecological processes that maintain life and the fundamental human rights that are the basis of the right to life, including the right to water, food, health, education, jobs and livelihoods.

We have to make a choice. Will we obey the market laws of corporate greed or Gaia's laws for maintenance of the earth's ecosystems and the diversity of its beings?

People's need for food and water can be met only if nature's capacity to provide food and water is protected. Dead soils and dead rivers cannot give food and water.

Defending the rights of Mother Earth is therefore the most important human rights and social justice struggle. It is the broadest peace movement of our times.

Dr Vandana Shiva is an Indian physicist, environmentalist and recipient of the 2010 Sydney Peace Prize. This is an edited version of her speech at the Sydney Opera House.

  Read Time To End War Against The Earth
 November 12, 2010   Which "Human" Rights Do You Call For?
by Kourosh Ziabari , Countercurrent,

One of my close friends is suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, a severe mental illness which has almost paralyzed his entire life. He was diagnosed with the disease at the age of 15 and now, more than a decade after that time, he is married and has two children. The psychiatrists in Iran have recommended him to go abroad and pursue his treatment under the supervision of a group of qualified, experienced practitioners; however, he was financially unable to afford the expenses of such a solution and remained in Iran.

Psychiatrists in Iran have prescribed several drugs for my friend and he has been taking them over the past years; however, when I met him a few weeks ago, he informed me of a shocking, unanticipated incident which I'm still unable to believe. My friend told me that the Canadian and Italian manufacturers of his medicines have ceased exporting their products to Iran following the imposition of United Nations Security Council's fourth round of sanctions against Iran and it's possible that they refuse to export their other pharmaceutical products to the country as a result of the sanctions, as well. He told me that his psychiatrists are not able to prescribe the high-quality, original medicines for him anymore and this may seriously jeopardize his mental health and even put his family life into risk.

My instinctive reaction to what my friend told me was nothing but perplexity and confusion. I couldn't understand the relationship between a set of sanctions which are aimed at what is claimed to be Iran's "controversial" nuclear program and the mental health of thousands of patients who are suffering from different kinds of psychoses all around the country.

At the first glance, what should be noted is that the four rounds of sanctions which were imposed on Iran by the UNSC so far are entirely illegal, unfounded and baseless as the International Atomic Energy Agency has repeatedly pointed out in its reports that Iran has never diverted toward enriching uranium to the extent that is utilizable in the atomic weapons;. The reports of intelligence services in the United States also confirm that Iran has never had the intention of producing nuclear weapons and thus should not be penalized with sanctions and other punitive measures. The National Intelligence Estimate report of the November 2007 has clearly expressed that Iran does not have a nuclear arsenal and is not moving towards producing nuclear weapons; therefore, bringing up Iran's nuclear dossier in Security Council and imposing several rounds of crippling sanctions against its people has been merely politicizing Iran's case which should have been investigated from a legal and scientific viewpoint, not a political one.

However, what is of high importance is the hypocritical and inhuman approach of the United States and its allies concerning Iran's nuclear program which is turned into an opportunity to confront with the Iranian nation and curb its scientific and political developments.

We have been witness to the fact that, under the pretext of abiding by the UNSC sanctions, several countries in Europe, Asia and Northern America have adopted a counterproductive stance toward Iran and ceased their ordinary financial transactions with Tehran.

Canada, Australia, Japan, South Korea and EU member states are among the countries which imposed unilateral, extra-resolution sanctions against Iran and caused several problems for the Iranian nation. Refusing to refuel the Iranian planes in the European airports, suspending the accounts of Iranians in foreign banks and financial institutions, delaying the issuance of visas for the Iranians who want to travel abroad, banning the Iranian students from studying certain fields in the foreign universities and ceasing the exportation of vital goods including foodstuff, medical facilities, fruits and medicines to Iran are among the belligerent policies which these countries have adopted against the people of Iran.

With this unconstructive approach, however, the belligerent countries who have stood against the nation of Iran demonstrated their dishonesty and proved that are not worthy of being trusted. First and foremost, they showed that their claims of being a friend of Iranian nation are entirely futile and pointless. They demonstrated that their "Nowrouz" greeting messages and stretched hands are fake and deceitful. They can not come to terms with the Iranian nation and are fated to be the enemies of Iran, because it's in their interests to spread animosity and hostility to retain their influence and power.

Secondly, these countries have clearly demonstrated that they have the least respect for human rights and what they claim to be their exclusive realm. A country that deprives the mental patients of another country, which is in dire need of high-quality medication to meet its pharmaceutical needs, of its medical products cannot be called a defender of human rights. Thousands of innocent civilians are suffering here in Iran, and they should be punished by the supercilious, arrogant powers simply because these powers favor being at odds with the independent and self-determining nations.

Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon regularly lashes out at other countries for what he claims to be their abuses of human rights; however, his own country, with a long period of abusing the rights of its ethnic minorities, refuses to export medicines to Iran because it wants to "abide by the UNSC resolutions". It might be interesting to know Mr. Cannon's viewpoints regarding human rights and the way his country glorifies the humankind. Thousands of mental patients are suffering in a remote country and those who promote themselves as the harbingers of human rights, deprive these "humans" from their most essential right which is a proper medication. How is it possible to justify the Canadian style of respecting the human rights, we don't know!

This was only a simple instance of how the pioneers of human rights fail to respect and venerate what they consider to be their first and foremost social value. Who knows about the real, on-the-ground abuses of human rights by them?

  Read Which
 November 22, 2010   A few words about Diplomacy Journal
by Germain Dufour , Spiritual Leader of the Global Community
Diplomacy Journal is dedicated to peace education, environmental protection, human rights and disarmament under the auspices of the International Association of Educators for World Peace (IAEWP). Dr. Charles Mercieca is President of IAEWP and has been a consistent writer for our Global Community monthly Newsletter. His articles cover similar topics found in Diplomacy Journal. Indeed, in Dr. Mercieca articles every word has a direct root from somewhere and so must be used correctly. His work with us was uploaded at http://globalcommunitywebnet.com/PeaceNow/Mercieca.htm

Contents section include global issues and events of concern to all those who care for Peoples.

In every era of history, we always had a group of countries which were drawn together by mutual common interests and benefits. Dr. Mercieca Diplomacy Journal allows writers from a great many countries all over the world to publish their work within the Journal. Articles are mostly based on historical facts and truly reflect understanding of the topic.

Perhaps one could define Dr. Mercieca's life work and character as that of a great diplomat dedicated to peace and harmony.

Thank you Dr. Mercieca.

Germain Dufour
Spiritual Leader of the Global Community

Diplomacy Journal Home Page
  Read Diplomacy Journal Home Page
 November 15, 2010   Climate Crisis, The Arctic And Geopolitics
by Farooque Chowdhury , Countercurrent,

Melting Arctic ice sheets, “contribution” of climate crisis, are altering geoeconomic and geopolitical environment. Agitating strategic setting in the Arctic carries implications for imperial stakeholders, which is actually interest of the capitals that these states serve. An ice-free Arctic will turn into a theatre of economic and political conflict with serious impact on geopolitics. “The Arctic could harbor some of the last yet undiscovered major oil and gas deposits … and that this would reshuffle the geopolitical cards. Russia would gain ice-free harbors and China would gain access to the Atlantic.” (Dr. Michael Werz, Transatlantic Fellow of the German Marshall Fund of the United States)

Ice-breaking now makes Arctic navigation expensive. Highest temperature change will dramatically reduce or possibly melt Arctic ice during part of the summer as soon as 2050. Conservative estimates calculate a 12 to 40 percent reduction in summer. Commercially viable Arctic sea lanes are anticipated to be opened for part of year well before 2050, which could make the ocean a major world trade route. (IPCC, The Regional Impacts of Climate Change: An Assessment of Vulnerability, November 1997) According to one estimate, the Northwest Passage may open itself for navigation for most of the year within 10-20 years. The Sea of Okhotsk and the Sea of Japan will remain ice-free throughout the year. The Russian coast and the Canadian Archipelago will be open to navigation by non-ice-strengthened ships in summer. The entire Russian coast will be ice-free, facilitating navigation through the Barents, Kara, Laptev and East Siberian Seas along the entire Northern Sea Route (NSR). The Northwest Passage through the Canadian Archipelago and along the coast of Alaska will be navigable every summer by non-icebreaking ships. Significant areas of the Arctic may turn permanently ice-free in the future while the entire area may become seasonally ice-free. During the early part of the 21st century, the impact of global warming will be less visible in other parts of the world than in the Arctic.

Countries with advanced technology and huge natural resources surround the Arctic. An ice-free Arctic passage will provide easy access to natural resources. Trade routes through the Arctic will significantly reduce distances between commercial regions and trade centers and will increase trade. The NSR between Europe and East Asia is 40 percent shorter than the route through the Suez Canal. The route is of primary interest for trade between Europe, the Far East, and the east and west coasts of the US.

The gas and oil industries are interested in using the NSR with ice-capable tankers “even before practical ice-free use of the route becomes available.” Non-Russian shipping is moving to open and develop the NSR. Asia is getting allured to open an export route. Shippers assume that Arctic routes provide more safety.

Conflicts are likely to arise as the NSR turns more available for world traffic. Increased traffic will need increased policing, search and rescue arrangements, and capacities to enforce legal bindings related to environment. Most Europe-Asia trade now travels through the Suez Canal. Diverting this traffic through the Northwest Passage would cut travel distance by 40 percent.

Climate crisis will bring fishing activity to the Arctic, particularly in the Barents Sea and Beaufort/Chukchi region that will influence fishing industry that faces continued dwindling of fishing stocks and increased pressure on fishery resources in the North Pacific and North Atlantic producing strategic implications.

The crisis will accelerate offshore hydrocarbon exploitation in the region making the job “comfortable” and more profitable. Technologies are being innovated to open remote and environmentally hostile areas to petroleum production. Huge oil and natural gas resources in Siberia are pressing profit to open the NSR. Reserves there are estimated to be comparable to those in the Middle East. According to Valery Kryukov, Valery Shmat, and Arild Moe, oil amounts are estimated at over 10.5 billion tons in Tyumen Oblast and Krasnoyarsk Kray alone, of which 5.5 percent has been exploited. (“West Siberian Oil and the Northern Sea Route: Current Situation and Future Potential”, Polar Geography 19, 1995)

Russia is working with a number of Western oil giants to exploit oil from the Barents and Timano-Pechora basins. Ice-capable tankers are being added to fleets, and petro-industry is moving into deeper water. A decrease in the problems related to drilling and producing oil offshore as sea ice extent and thickness diminishes will expand exploration and production opportunities in the Arctic. Plans are being made for offshore drilling in the US Arctic. The Russian and Canadian parts are also strong potential sites for offshore exploration.

Possible changes in oil availability and trade in the Arctic region will negatively impact the Middle East. Oil in the ME compels the West to extend strong support to many regimes there. With prospects of the West’s less dependence on these regimes the region may experience turmoil and unrest, which in turn may influence incidents in lands far away.

With resource-rich Russian Arctic the country is a major stakeholder in the region. Uninterrupted exploitation of energy, mineral and forest resources are expected there. Interests of China and Japan in the Russian Far East are growing. The importance of the NSR to Russia is not only due to economic interests, but also because of military interests, although Douglas and Willy argue the opposite in their essay “The Northern Sea Route Regime: Exquisite Superpower Subterfuge?” (Ocean Development & International Law 30, no. 4) They wrote: The importance of the route to Russia has increased as many temperate ports that were part of the former Soviet Union were lost to the new republics. But economic strategy mingles, especially in cases of powerful, with military strategy.

In September 2009, the governor of Arkhangelsk said to Baltinfo that Russia must speed up the development of the NSR before climate change makes it possible to use the North East Passage outside the Russian 200 miles zone. “We have to start developing the Northern Sea Route, or else others will do it.” He maintained that the administration for the NSR should be reestablished. The main users of the route are Norilsk Nickel, Gazprom, Lukoil, Rosneft and Rosshelf. Northeast Passage is the shortest sea route between the Far East and the European parts of Russia. The distance from St. Petersburg to Vladivostok is 14,000 kilometers, compared to 23,000 km through the Suez Canal.

In September 2009, Barents Observer reported that two German merchant vessels became the first foreign commercial vessel to make it through the formerly impenetrable passage without assistance of icebreakers.

A major contender in the region is the US, which is trying to collude with the EU and Eastern Pacific countries.

Economic situations in Russia and the US will influence their moves. Both the parties are designing and redesigning long-range military deployment plans as strategic resources are one of the key drivers in geostrategy. Investments are being made in physical infrastructure. The Arctic will witness an increase in surface naval activity over subsurface activity. An unimpeded flow of oil requires vigilance and maritime patrol.

Canada is also a major party in the region, and a number of issues related to the region are bones of contention in the US-Canada relation. Both Canada and Russia claim navigable straits in the NSR and the Northwest Passage under their exclusive control. The US asserts that the ice-covered straits of the NSR are international and subject to the right of transit passage while Russia claims the straits as internal waters. The issues are connected to economy, and competition.

Denmark and Norway are contending parties too. The point of argument is the way to increase share of the Arctic riches, claiming overlapping parts of the region. They are also wrangling over the control of the still frozen shipping routes.

China, not a member of the Arctic Council that determines Arctic policies, is actively searching ways to reap economic and strategic benefits from the ice melting despite having no Arctic coast, and hence no sovereign rights to underwater continental shelves there. The emerging giant is assessing the commercial, political and security implications of a seasonally ice-free Arctic region. It has allocated more resources to Arctic research. The country owns one of the world’s strongest polar scientific research capabilities and the world’s largest non-nuclear icebreaker. China is building a new high-tech polar expedition research icebreaker, planned to set sail in 2013.

Economic interests and protection of trade route in the Arctic widens politico-military objectives of competitors, and the objectives need support of a force capable of air defense and superiority, undersea warfare, strike capacity, escort operations, etc. With widened deployment coverage in a region with harsh environment major contenders there now need more icebreakers, ice capable tankers, nuclear submarines, aircraft carriers, heavy aircrafts, port structures, airports, roads and other naval resource and superstructure that can withstand a difficult nature including icing and heavy fog. Ships and submarines are to be redesigned; new technologies are to be innovated; and war plans to be redrawn. These demand infusion of extra resources. The Arctic is an attractive area for the stationing of strategic submarines because of its geographic proximity to North America, Europe, and Asia. Exercises and reviews have already been initiated.

Adventurers and seafarers, wrote Dr. Werz, tried to find the Northwest Passage, the legendary route from Europe to Asia to avoid the Cape of Good Hope. More crucial is the tactical importance of the newly opened passage, the discovery of which was considered by the British Crown a major security mechanism of the empire, the short-cut to the profitable Asian markets. Once, the Atlantic was an open space. Atlantis and Campanella’s City of the Sun, the utopian places, were imagined in that ocean. But trade and technology have made it the shortest route between the old and the new worlds. The Arctic is waiting for similar transformation “powered” by climate crisis, and is bearing elements of increased global rivalry.

Farooque Chowdhury contributes on socioeconomic issues.

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